The Basics of Data Security

What is data security? Data security is an important part of the overall business security strategy. It includes methods for identifying and assessing security threats and mitigating the risks associated with protecting sensitive information and the underlying IT systems.

Data can flow freely anywhere, and the goal is to develop a powerful data security strategy to control this flow.

Data security therefore involves a broad and complex set of safeguards against a variety of security issues, such as accidental and intentional unauthorized access, modification that may result in data corruption or loss.

Modern data protection techniques require developing comprehensive network security, configuring firewalls, securing the web and browsers, implementing security policies, managing risks and even introducing encryption principles.

A big part of the problem is that organizations often struggle to understand what “data security” really means to them, and what proper data security standards are and how to achieve them.

Do invoices need to be backed up? Should users tag each file they create to indicate the type of data it contains? Should remote access to the production database be restricted?

Without a clear understanding of the basics of data security, there is a risk of trying to protect every file (down to outdated versions of product guides) and restricting access to every folder.

Information security is based on three fundamental concepts: confidentiality, integrity and availability.

Confidentiality is based on the principle of least privilege. It is about preventing unauthorized access to sensitive data to prevent it from falling into the hands of the wrong people. To protect confidentiality, organizations must take appropriate security measures, which include access control lists (ACLs), encryption, two-factor authentication and strong passwords, configuration management, monitoring and alerting software.

Integrity is the protection of data from unauthorized deletion or modification. One way to ensure integrity is to use a digital signature to verify the authenticity of secure content or transactions, which is widely done by governments and healthcare organizations.

Availability is a critical component of data security. Security controls, computer systems, and software must all function properly to ensure that computer services and systems are available when needed. If, for example, your financial database is offline, your accountants won’t be able to send or pay invoices on time, which can lead to disruption of critical business processes.

The difference between data security and information security

As you review the basics of data security, you may notice that security professionals use the terms “data security” and “information security” with different meanings. What is the difference between data security and information security?

Let’s first look at the definition of data and information. Individual raw facts and details are usually called “data”: raw data tables for example. For this data to become actionable information, it must be put into context, otherwise it is meaningless and cannot be used for decision making. “Information” therefore has a broader meaning. The different types of information include all types of processed data, for example, business communications by e-mail.

The difference between “data protection” and “data security”:

This needs to be considered, as these two terms are often confused.

Data protection is about active security practices. It requires tools and procedures to protect data from unauthorized electronic access, modification, accidental disclosure, disruption, and destruction. It involves using physical and logical strategies to protect information from data breaches, cyberattacks, and accidental or intentional data loss.

While data security is about passive administrative measures such as those covering legal aspects (privacy policies, terms and conditions…).

These policies define how organizations handle and manage data, especially sensitive data, such as personally identifiable information, payment card data, medical or educational information, etc.